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Column: Pine tar use in baseball more common than not

By Molly Burkhardt
On April 14, 2014

Thursday night began the four game series between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The long time rivalry always attracts fans not just from the two teams, but also across the MLB. This game in particular drew a lot of attention as Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda threw a no-hitter for the first five innings. Pineda had a season-ending shoulder injury in 2012 that also put him out for the 2013 season. His comeback seemed unlikely, until he proved himself this past spring. But Thursday night's 4-1 Yankee's victory brought up a lot of question about what was responsible for Pineda's un-hittable pitches: his arm or pine tar?
Any substance (including pine tar) applied to the baseball is not allowed in the league according to the league's Rule 8.02 (a)(4), as they give the pitcher better grip on the ball.
"Everybody in the league uses pine-tar. It's not a big deal," Ortiz told The Wire after the game.
However most people try and hide it better than Pineda did. Cameras caught multiple angles of the sticky, brown substance all over Pineda's palm and even on the baseball. Whatever the substance may have been, it did not go unnoticed. NESN commentators Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo noted the substance and talked about it on air. Pineda denied accusations of using an illegal substance, telling everyone it was just dirt that combined with his sweat and resulted in a sticky gunk. After being notified that his attempt at achieving a better grip was being nationally recognized, Pineda returned to the game after the fifth inning with clean hands, free of tar or "dirt." He immediately gave up his first hit of the game and his no-hitter came to an end.
With such an obvious use of cheating, why didn't the Red Sox call out the Yankees?
According to Thursday's umpires, they could not take action unless the opposing team makes a complaint. From there, the situation can be investigated and the suspected player can be fined or suspended from that game.
Players on the Sox expressed their views on the use of pine tar. Most seemed to accept it, as long as the purpose of using any substance is solely for holding the ball and knowing where it's going. In colder weather, pitchers often seek aid in holding onto the ball in order to control their pitches. Had pitchers not used a substance - whether it is pine tar, lotion or some other technique - hitters would be facing wild pitches. The problem arises when the pitcher is using a substance to change the way his pitch is thrown. In warmer weather, the substance would be unnecessary for grip and instead be used to enhance a pitch as the ball travels through the air. Last season the Sox faced complaints on pitcher Clay Bucholz after he was suspected of using pine tar; perhaps why they decided to let this violation slide. Sox relief pitcher Chris Capuano joked that it's understandable to want to have a good grip, "you just don't want to flaunt it."
 


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